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Egyptian Foreign Minister Optimistic About Upcoming Bush Summit - 2003-05-31


Egypt's foreign minister says his country expects positive moves toward regional peace to result from President Bush's meetings next week with Arab leaders.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher says Arab leaders are looking forward to meeting with President Bush Tuesday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

The trip to the Middle East is the American president's first to the region since he took office in January 2001.

Mr. Maher says high-profile summits in Egypt and Jordan, which also mark President Bush's first hands-on intervention in peacemaking efforts, show the seriousness and determination of all parties to work together to resolve the Middle East conflict. He adds that the discussions can lead to real practical outcomes to move peace forward.

The summit host, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, has invited the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Bahrain as well as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to the talks with President Bush.

The American president will then travel to Jordan, where he has a meeting Wednesday with Mr. Abbas and his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon.

Pushing Middle East peacemaking efforts forward as envisioned by the so-called road map is certain to dominate the U.S.-Arab discussions. The road map calls for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, a freeze on Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and an Israeli troop withdrawal.

Foreign Minister Maher says Egypt is urging the Palestinians and Israelis not to take any unilateral actions that could hinder the plan's implementation, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in 2005. But the plan hinges on the Palestinian Authority's ability to crack down on militant groups.

He says the Arab leaders will discuss other topics with President Bush, including the future and stability of Iraq, U.S.-Arab economic cooperation and international efforts to combat terrorism.

U.S. officials say they are looking to gain Arab commitment to isolate those who support terror.

President Bush and his delegation, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, are due to arrive in Sharm el Sheikh Monday night for bilateral talks with the Egyptians before the start of the summit.

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